The Horror Under the Stairs by Chuck Thurston

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It’s the day after Thanksgiving and a lot of household chores have been on hold as we prepared for the day and kicked back afterwards. Sooner or later, though, things have to be dealt with. Heidi sent me down to the cellar to put away a few things that wouldn’t be needed again and to pick up a few more that would be put back in service.

I dawdled a bit in the cellar as I often do – engaging in a little self-flagellation over my neglect in staying ahead of cellar cleaning. It can wait until warmer weather I kept telling myself – and recalled that I had made that same sort of vow last year about this time.

Then I checked into the little storage area under the stairs and what I saw almost made my skin crawl.

wine cellarThere were huge gaps in the wine collection! For some reason, other events in life had caught up with us, and our stock was shockingly depleted!  The whites almost gone and the reds down to a few bottles of less-than-favorites or special bottles waiting for a little more age or the right occasion. And the holiday season already begun!

“This will not stand!” – as George H. W. Bush said of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. And it won’t, either. I’ll get on it right away.

And, incidentally, if we are on your Christmas gift list (and you know who you are), a bottle of something is always welcome. After all, environmentalists have been urging us to give gifts that are consumable  and don’t add to the country’s growing land fills.  We would truly enjoy it and you would be doing your part to Go Green. Win-win.

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Facebunk by Chuck Thurston

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The job market is tough for young people these days. A lot of the entry-level jobs have gone overseas. The country is just now beginning to climb out of a bad recession. Many of our young folks will be graduating from high school this spring. This column is for them.

Listen up kids. This is Grandpa. Put down that cell phone for a minute or two and read some advice. Yeah, I know. What can you learn from some old geezer who doesn’t even know how to tweet? Tweet, schmeet. Let me explain. I spent 40 plus years in the business world. I have hired people, and fired people. Trust me on this one, gang.

casey_stengel

Technology has made it easier than ever to find and keep a job suitable to your talents. It has also made it a whole lot easier to blow a good job chance, or lose the one you have.

First things first. The interview is important. Spend a little time beforehand learning something about the company and the job you are interviewing for. They probably have a certain way they want people to dress, behave, and perform on their jobs.

Google them. You can really impress the dude or dudette giving the interview if you know something about what they do and how they do it.

Be clean and neat and on time for the interview. Smile and make eye contact. Sure, you might be a little nervous – that’s to be expected. No big deal. I will tell you a little secret. A lot of times the interviewer is a little nervous too!

Turn off your cell phone and stick it in your purse or pocket. I said OFF, kids – not on vibrate. If I’m interviewing you and I notice you glancing down periodically to scope out your buds…you are cooked. My theory is that if you can’t stay untexted for the length of a half-hour interview, I am not going to trust you to give your undivided attention to the position I am looking to fill. Do you want a job, or do you want to spend most of your time playing thumb-doodle? If your answer is “IDK..”, you should seriously reexamine your life.

After the interview, be patient. They probably won’t make a decision right away, but will let you know in a few days. What do you think they are doing in the meantime? Fixing up a nice office for you? OMG, no, kid. They might have other people they want to talk to about this job – and they are probably doing a little checking on your references. WTF? Yes, kids. They might want to have a chat with any bosses you worked for before: how you did on the job, why you left, etc. I’ve had many an enlightening chat with the former employers of folks who wanted a job with me.

A new little wrinkle that might concern you: a lot of them are now looking you up on Facebook, just for the fun of it. This can be a real showstopper for you. Let me explain:

Does your Facebook profile list some of your favorite interests as: “Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite, ha ha ha!” This is Facebunk. If I were a prospective employer looking at this, I’d be saying, “Not on MY time clock, dawg!” Don’t list all of your bad habits, no matter how sexy, tough, macho, clever or hilarious you think they are. If those really ARE your primary interests, your new boss will find out about them soon enough. Then you can try to explain why a high flyin’, loveable goofball cut-up like you deserves to be working for him or her.

Oh yeah, and kids – while you’re at it – apply the granny test to the pics on our Facebook page. If you’d be embarrassed to show them to grandma, grandpa, your pastor or other responsible, respectable folks – dump them. I would delete such pics as: high times with stoner friends, clothing optional parties, various hormonal and testosterone driven activities, mistreatment of animals, small children and other hijinks. More Facebunk. Keep these in your scrapbook. Perhaps when your own grandchildren come along many years from now, they will be enlightened enough to chuckle over them. Perhaps. Assuming you survived them.

Never announce your job interview plans, or preferred job choice to the world. Just like the forward pass in football, three things can happen – and two of them are bad.

A: Best case scenario – you get the job you want, your new employer checks your Facebook and is impressed by your high opinion of them.

B and C suck.

B: Ok, you get the job you want and thumb your Facebook nose at the other employers you interviewed with.   These others see your FB entry, and start to wonder, “Hey, why is this guy/gal dissing us? On Facebook, no less!” You can guess where this puts you if you go looking for another job in the future. Computers have long memories. Data is forever.

C: Your announced favorite doesn’t hire you and the others start to wonder, “Hmmm…wonder why they didn’t hire that guy/gal…maybe we should take a closer peek at those references…”

But let’s say you’re now on the job and you resisted the temptation to exercise options B and C above. Here’s some advice on how to keep it.

Never, EVER, diss your place of employment or supervisor on Facebook.   Jeez, grow up kids. Nobody really cares if you don’t get along with the Chief of the Burger Crew — except the Chief. If he or she finds out that you’ve made nasty comments on Facebook, OMG! – you are so busted, kid.

And in that same vein – never diss a job you left! “WHAT!” you say? “But that was a lousy job and they treated me like crap!” Maybe. (…or maybe you did a less than super-duper job…just sayin’). Why should you care if these yamheads see your insults? Listen, kid. Companies change, bosses change — YOU change. Maybe a year from now you will be looking for another job – with THEM! Remember that computer memory? Never burn your bridges behind you!

It’s a jungle out there, gang.

Fixing the Election by Chuck Thurston

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coffee party cartoon
At no time does television viewing become more tedious than in the months leading up to election. Millions are spent on campaign ads that tell us nothing. The most obnoxious are the negative ads that criticize the opponent instead of listing the virtues of the sponsoring candidate. Even pro-candidate ads, though, are typically dull, vacuous and ridden with clichés. Everyone with a hat in the ring will create jobs, lower taxes, decrease spending, etc., etc.

There is never any detail on just how all of these wonderful things will be achieved; no specific plan, no solid goals, no data, numbers or calendar for achievement is ever given.

I once worked in a large facility of a large corporation when a new general manager was brought in to help right a ship that was, frankly, foundering. He held a lot of staff meetings and listened to a lot of ideas. He had to move quickly and insisted that presentations given to him cut to the chase as soon as possible.

As it happens, his wife was into cross-stitch and he had her make him a sampler that he framed and put on his office wall.

This was in the pre-PowerPoint days, and overhead projectors with transparencies were the presentation weapon of choice. They were popularly called foils, and the presenter often entered a conference room with a pile of them under his arm to “toil and foil” before those he or she wished to convince or impress. And impress is an appropriate term; a lot of the transparencies, were designed primarily to showcase the standup skills of the presenter.

It didn’t take the new GM long to conclude that any given pitch made to him was going to contain a lot of upfront fluff, and he had a low tolerance for it. As the pitchman began his spiel and foil after foil began to light up the screen, the GM would raise his hand for a halt and point to his wife’s sampler on the wall:

“Let me know when you get to the part where you tell us how to fix it!”

 

It was remarkable how quickly the presenter would lift off the top of his stack and speak to the few foils on the bottom.

That’s what I’d like candidates to do. It’s ridiculously easy for incumbents to mouth platitudes – and even easier for challengers to criticize programs they see as flawed, but have no idea of how to make it better. Let’s put them to the test! Make them get to the part where they tell us how to fix it!

Halloween 2014 by Chuck Thurston

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spooky halloween image

My wife and I got a big bowl of candy and sat it on the little table in the foyer to wait for the trick-or-treaters. A cold front with accompanying showers was predicted for later in the evening, so we weren’t sure how many to expect. We have had two or three costumed children on some Halloweens and dozens on others. We put The Fog in the DVD player to watch on this spookiest of nights. It was getting colder and the wind was picking up.

As cars pulled up in front of our modest little ranch, we could see small figures in the glow of headlights and taillights, shuffling through leaves falling in the gloomy mist and heading down our driveway. Larger figures lurked in the background as sentinels.

The Fog

We had about nine or ten such visitors by 7:30. We waited for another half hour, when it appeared that we had seen the last of the ghosts, witches, devils and vampires. We pulled the shades, turned off the outside lights, and queued up our movie.

We had only two small lamps on in our otherwise darkened living room. We were watching The Fog. We could hear the wind outside. The movie itself is characterized by fog and wind and crashing waves, and at some point my wife said, “Do you hear thunder outside?”

“Can’t be,” I said, but went to the front door to check.

Sure enough. A cold rain was falling steadily and lightning flashed in the distance. The wind was whipping the leaves from our front yard maples and the temperature drop was noticeable. I reported this phenomenon to my wife. “We had better get a couple of flashlights,” she said. “We might lose power.”

I got the flashlights – and lit a couple of candles.

The movie was sufficiently scary for our Hallow’s Evening and the weather was right on cue for it. I told my wife that if we got another knock on the door, I probably wouldn’t answer it. We bundled up under comforters, finished the movie, finished our wine, blew out the candles and went to bed.